Cultural diversity and the conversation of justice: Reading Cavell on political voice and the expression of consent

Owen, David (1999) Cultural diversity and the conversation of justice: Reading Cavell on political voice and the expression of consent. Political Theory, 27, (5), 579-596.


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In a recent "AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL EXERCISE", Stanley cavell remarks that if he had been required by the publisher to give a one-clause sense of The Claim of Reason's reason for existing, "it might have been "to help bring the human voice back into philosophy". This comment leads one to ask in what sense Cavell thinks that the human voice had gone missing from philosophy? And, further, to ask what the important of this (attempted) act of returning the human voice to philosophy is for philosophical work.

In this essay, I sketch a response to these questions in relation to political philosophy and illustrate the implications of this response by reference to the issue of cultural diversity. This response is worked out by attending to the relationship between the constitution of Emersonian perfectionism and the issue of political voice. I will present this response in four stages. In the opening section of the essay, I offer a prima facie case for taking Cavell's concern with the human voice to be a significant issue for philosophy.

This case is presented by way of a sketch of the features of Emersonian perfectionism. The second section extends this case by exploring Cavell's reflections on political voive and the myth of the social contract in the Claim of the Reason. The third section then shows how these reflections inform his criticisms of Rawasl's theory of justice. In the final section, the implications of this response are drawn out by bringing Cavell's voice to bear on the issue of struggles for cultural recognition.

Item Type: Article
ISSNs: 0090-5917 (print)
Related URLs:
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
J Political Science > JC Political theory
Divisions : University Structure - Pre August 2011 > School of Social Sciences > Politics and International Relations
ePrint ID: 34016
Accepted Date and Publication Date:
Date Deposited: 27 Jul 2006
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2016 12:00

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